— Editor, Daily Press:
With the issue of religious belief now squarely introduced into the 2012 presidential campaign, it would be well for us to read again Article VI, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution: “(N)o religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”
That seems crystal-clear to me.
Our founders wrote into the Constitution this prohibition against an established religion because they knew what can happen when one religious institution or belief becomes so intertwined with the civic authority that the two become indistinguishable. They remembered the Inquisition, with its forced baptism of Jews, and the torture and execution of “heretics.” They remembered the execution of Michael Servetus in 1553 for religious heresy, an event that involved no less a religious personage than John Calvin. And then there was the execution for heresy of Mary Dyer in Massachusetts, barely 120 years before the Constitutional Convention – an event made possible because the Puritans had successfully, on the North American continent, combined church and state into one institution.
Those who today call for the restoration of a “Christian” nation that never existed do not remember history, nor do they understand the intent of the founders of our republic.
While I believe that neither church nor state should seek to control the other, I do believe that our faith should inform our politics. My politics have been forged largely from my faith, shaped within a specific worshipping community and nurtured deeply by the Hebrew and Christian Testaments.
From Genesis Chapter 1, I learn that we are part of the earth and everything in it, a relationship that God calls “good.”
From the Hebrew prophets, I learn about things that God does not call good, such as the oppression of the poor and the powerless; the greedy pursuit of wealth at the expense of human lives; the sale of justice; and rulers who lead the nation with reckless adventurism into war, often using the name of God to justify it.
From Jesus I hear questions like these: Do the poor and the outcast have a seat at the table? Do all children have a priority in your hearts? Are the least, the last, and the lost as important to you as the most prominent and powerful among you? Do you consider other ways to treat with your enemy than seeking to destroy him? Does what you say match what you do? Do you feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, tend to the ill, care about the imprisoned, and clothe the naked?
If there is a “Christian” perspective on politics, its central core surely lies in how we treat one another.
Compassion is more important than creed. Behavior is more important than belief. Decency is more important that domination.